For the second half of the Uefa Champions League, our beloved Old Lady will take a plane ride north, way north, all the way up to Scotland. Having disposed of Defending Champions Chelsea – the team which ironically disposed of Juventus the last time they were in the knockout stages – the bianconeri will return to the British Isles and face off against Celtic in Glasgow, of the Scottish Premier League.
Comprising one half of the famously known “Old Firm” along with Rangers, Celtic and their arch rival call Glasgow their home. As their name insinuates, Celtic is associated with the Irish. Of course this is European football, so things can’t simply be that easy and apolitical, and so the club is specifically associated with Irish Republicanism. Traditionally supported by Scots of Irish and/or Catholic descent, the bhoys or the hoops – both colloquial names of Celtic, the latter an homage to their green-and-white horizontal striped home kit – boast a huge following in Ireland and amongst the Irish diaspora abroad.
Celtic was borne of the large 19th century influx of Irish immigrants to Scotland at a time when anti-Catholic sentiment was running high. Indeed this continued for at least a century, as Rangers would not sign a major Catholic player until Mo Johnston in 1989 (!). The Old Firm rivalry is thus one of the most famous rivalries in sports. For everyone who complains about what has become an annual two-horse race in Spain, consider that since its inception in 1890, the Old Firm has won the Scottish championship 97 times, with only 19 years of winners not Celtic or Rangers. Unfortunately, the rivalry is on a temporary hiatus while Rangers have been banished to the lower divisions for financial irregularities.
For a born and raised Catholic like myself, this is thus a somewhat sentimental affair – oh God, I sound like a simpazzante! Anyway, although a Scottish club, I will pay homage to both their Scottish and Irish lineage. Today’s recipe is a favorite among pubs along the British Isles, and a staple which can be found at any Irish pub stateside – beer battered fish and chips. As our resident Brit Adam Digby would say, British Isles food is British Isles food, so I feel good about this.
I always like to pair my Team EATS recipes with an appropriate beverage, and happened to stumble upon some Scottish Ale, but also have stout handy in the fridge. And while no Irish/Scottish pub fare is anything without beer and a nip of a spirit to compliment it, I’ve got some Scotch and Irish whiskey handy as well.
As for a cooking soundtrack, I originally planned on dusting off Van Morrison. However, I realized who better to top off today’s theme than one of my all-time personal favorites – Irish-made, British-raised Declan Patrick MacManus – you may know him as Elvis Costello. In spirit of today’s Anglo/Irish infused, hyper-political theme, enjoy the below live version of “Oliver’s Army” – a song perhaps named after Oliver Cromwell, the creator of Britain’s “new model army” and the father of the modern British military.
Let’s get started!
Pub-Style Fish and Chips with Brussels Sprouts
Difficulty: If you can’t manage this recipe, just give up now on whatever it is you’re planning on doing with your life.
Time: 45-60 min. (depending on how big of a deep fryer you have)
1. The Chips: I have a mini deep fryer, so I used that. If you don’t have a deep fryer, you can use a Dutch oven or deep pan. Just make sure you get the temperature of the cooking oil to around 375 degrees Fahrenheit. I used Canola oil. Make sure that you use an appropriate oil for deep frying. For example, even though this is an Italian soccer website and I sweat olive oil, DO NOT use it for deep frying. It has a low smoke point, and will burn and potentially cause a fire if you get the temperature too high. Research it on your own, but be careful and as always, cook at your own risk.
Once at the desired temperature, fry the potatoes until golden brown (around 10-15 minutes). Remove from the oil onto a bowl covered with a couple of paper towels to blot, and season with salt and cracked pepper. Done.
2. Vegetables: I always prefer a green with any dinner, and prefer less carbs/starch (if at all) and more vegetable/protein, since it’s healthier. I chose the aforementioned sprouts since Scotland is known for their overcast climate and root vegetables. And I’m just assuming that Brussels sprouts, while (if I had to guess) are Belgian (based on their name), is a root vegetable.
My favorite way to cook them is to cut off the stem at the bottom, cut them in half, lay them in a shallow glass pan, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and cracked pepper. Preheat the oven to around 375-400 degrees, and bake for around 25 minutes. Done.
3. Fish: Pour the beer into a large mixing bowl. Next, sift 1 ½ cups of the flour in, whisking as you go. Continue to whisk it until the mixture becomes frothy, and throw in the salt/pepper/garlic powder/paprika seasoning (and if you like things with a little kick to them like I do, throw in a little cayenne too). Keep the remaining ½ cup of flour on the side for dredging (you may need a bit more).
Slice the fillet to the appropriate size, as mentioned in the ingredients (think small chicken-finger size).
Dip the pieces of fish into the batter, then dredge in the plain flour. Then, fry (still at 375) until golden brown (around 5 – 10 minutes). Just like with the fries, erm, I mean chips, blot in a shallow dish/bowl covered in paper towels. Done.
To wash it down I went with a Belhaven, a refreshing Scottish Ale I found at my local liquor store. It kind of reminded me a bit of Stella Artois, which I enjoy, and went well with the crispy, light fish. I drank it with a side of Tyrconnell, a single malt Irish whiskey, which should be served neat of course (if you put ice or club soda in a single malt, I will personally come to your house, ring your doorbell, and punch you in the throat when you answer). I will switch it up on Tuesday when I watch the match, and drink a Guinness stout along with an Aberfeldy, a single malt Scotch whisky made by Dewars. I usually drink Irish with stout, but chose this way to complement the mix of Irish/Scottish heritage of Celtic. It actually worked. The smooth, almost citrusy flavor (with a slight aftertaste of peat) of the Irish compliments the lighter ale nicely, while the crisp, syrupy flavor of the scotch holds up against the dark stout.
I have to say, I don’t fry food often, and even more rarely do I deep-fry anything. But this recipe was simply delicious. My wife was skeptical herself, but was impressed by how crisp the outside coating was, and how light and flaky the fish came out. Fish and chips are one of those dishes that I always want but never seem to get; probably because if you order out, things always seem to be far more greasy. The key, for me, was blotting the fish and potatoes. I don’t like things that are too greasy, but I do prefer a crunchy texture. And, of course, the Brussels sprouts were delicious.
Mangiare è l’unica cosa che… Conte!
Back by popular demand, TeamEATS is a culinary guide to cooking and consuming the opposition. Each week, we pick a recipe from the home cuisine of Juve’s upcoming adversary, put on the kitchen apron and… cook it and eat it. Buon Appetito!